Fallout over city manager rating raises questions

Pastor Greg James
City Manager Reese Goad
Congressman Al Lawson
Commissions Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter (right) at a press conference earlier this year.

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

As the fallout continues from a recent evaluation of City Manager Reese Goad that indicates a split among city commissioners, questions are mounting about how the situation got to this point.

Two of four commissioners along with Mayor John Dailey gave Goad glowing marks in a recent evaluation. Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter rated Goad’s performance at 1 and 1.4, respectively.

Commissioners Curtis Richardson and Dianne Williams-Cox each rated the city manager’s performance at 5, the highest he could get. Dailey also gave him the same mark, assuring that an overall rating of 5.

Goad expressed gratitude to those who rated him favorably without any mention of Matlow or Porter.

“I could not be prouder of the work and ongoing efforts that City departments under my leadership put forth in delivering excellent service to our community,” Goad wrote in a text message. “By all accounts it was a good year, even under the most challenging of circumstances.

“I appreciate the feedback from the mayor and commissioners and especially appreciate the time that Mayor Dailey, Commissioner Williams-Cox and Commissioner Richardson have taken to provide guidance and support over this past year.”

The assault on Goad is somewhat astonishing, considering that he was given high marks when he was hired, following a nation-wide search to replace Rick Fernandez. 

Former city manager Anita Favors said of Goad weeks after he was hired, “He is one of the brightest critical thinkers I have ever met.”

Based on the evaluation form, commissioners were faced with seven questions about Goad, including economic development, impact on poverty and public safety. A copy of the evaluation, which the Capital Outlook obtained by public request, also showed that Porter and Matlow responded in a memo and not the specific questions.

Matlow was first to raise concern about Goad’s performance soon after he was elected to the board three years ago. Porter, a first year commissioner has since joined him in calling for Goad’s ouster.

Matlow explained the gist of his dissatisfaction with the city manager is that he is tainted by the relationship he had with former commissioner Scott Maddox, who has been sentenced to five years in prison on federal corruption charges. Matlow is so vehement about his stance that he unequivocally stated that he has no fear that his stance could be perilous to his political career.

“Does it concern me?” Matlow asked before answering. “No. But I think the conversation had been growing over the last three years and I think more and more people are recognizing the issues and they’re not seeing any type of change.”

He also expressed concern about crime, economic opportunities and poverty as issues he said Goad has ignored.

While that is what Matlow might be hearing from his constituents, not everyone agrees that his claim against Goad is warranted. 

Greg James, pastor of Life Church International and host of “Wake Up Wednesday” talk show, said what he sees is a personality clash between the two leaders. 

“Whatever their personal differences are, I don’t think that should have any bearing on how they rate his performance,” said James, who is also known as a community advocate.

James added: “To my understanding, he has been doing a great job as city manager. Realizing the fact that he has taken on the responsibility of the city that under such scrutiny and attack, I think it’s commendable.”

Like Matlow, Porter said she is concerned about “simply signing off on business as usual,” adding that she will not change her stance on Goad being ineffective.

In a statement sent to the Capital Outlook, Porter said, “Moving our community forward means getting our leadership right at the top — and we will continue to advocate for that as the people of Tallahassee expect.”

The obvious disdain held by Porter and Matlow over Goad has even gotten the attention of Congressman Al Lawson, who owns a home on the city’s Southside. He particularly cited the city manager’s effort to keep working at a proficient level during the pandemic.

“I see things in the community when I come, like more park development,” said Lawson who commutes between Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee several times each year. “I see increased law enforcement in the African American community, which I think is great because we’ve had a lot of shooting and things like that. I think they’ve been doing a good job, really.”

Williams-Cox questioned Matlow’s motive, saying all that she’s seen of Goad’s work is above board. She doesn’t hesitate to question him when she has doubts, she said.

“I can tell him when I think the position he has taken is the wrong position and he needs to change course,” Williams-Cox said. “He listens and he eventually does it. I have a relationship because I know in order to get things done you’ve got to have a relationship.”

Richardson also expressed concern about what Matlow is claiming, saying he should bring forward any evidence he has of wrong doing.

“If you are questioning a man’s integrity, ethics and morality, you need to have proof of that,” Richardson said. “You don’t question a man based on what you heard or think. That’s based on what you know and can prove. If you think it’s an ethical issue, file an ethics complaint and let it be investigated.”

However, James doesn’t believe the situation has to come to that. Instead, he said, Matlow and Porter should move to mend fences with Goad for the good of the community.

“You cannot get the needs of a community when there is constant division being placed upon the community by elected officials,” James said. “When elected officials are putting one community against another, it automatically creates conversation within that community that causes division.”

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